Obviously the Women’s March was a huge part of the news in January. Check out our coverage of it in our series of posts (Attending the March, Marcher Contributions, Criticism and Questions, and Next Steps), otherwise, find out everything else you might have missed here.
Anti-abortion groups in Oklahoma are working to pass a bill that requires all public restrooms, including in restaurants, hospitals, public schools, hotels and nursing homes, to post signs with anti-abortion statements on them to discourage anyone from getting the procedure. Enacting this bill would cost an estimated $2.3 million, but there’s no proof that it would create the abortion-free society the group is hoping for. At the same time, Kentucky has only one abortion provider left in the state after the EMW Women’s Clinic in Lexington was closed. Women from Kentucky commented, saying that this will have a huge impact on low-income women who would be unable to get to the one clinic that offers abortions.
An international reaching executive order was put into place this month that has worldwide consequences to women’s reproductive health. The Mexico City policy, known as the global gag rule, prohibits government funding of any international nongovernmental organizations that offer or advise on issues including abortion, even if the U.S. dollars would not be spent on abortion-related services. None of that money was spend on abortions even before President Trump signed this executive order. Furthermore, while he signed this order, he was surrounded by all men, even though this order could have a serious affect on women. In an act of defiance against Trump’s executive order, the Netherlands plans to create its own international fund to support birth control, reproductive health and abortion access in the developing world.
While these two very opposing sides are fighting, the abortion rate has fallen to the lowest it has been since Roe v. Wade. Both anti-abortion groups and pro-choice groups argue that this decline is due to their own efforts. Pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood credit the lower rate to better access to contraception. Anti-abortion groups argue that the report shows new state restrictions on abortion are working. Principal research scientist Rachel Jones said, “Abortion is going down, and births aren’t going up,” indicating improved access to birth control seems to be largely responsible for the declining rate.
“If there are women in these highly restrictive states who want abortions but can’t get them because there aren’t any clinics that they can get to, and that’s why abortion’s going down, that’s not a good thing,” Jones said. “But we think the story that’s going on in a lot of situations, in a lot of states, is that fewer women are having unintended pregnancies and in turn fewer abortions, and that is actually a good story.”
Takeaway: Whichever side of the abortion argument you are on, the decline in abortion rates can be seen as a good thing. The important thing is continuing to provide healthcare, especially reproductive healthcare, to all women.
In this past election season, there was constant discussion of Planned Parenthood (PP) and what it uses its fund for. Many people don’t want any federal funds to go to an organization that offers abortion services, even if those funds do not go to abortions at all. PP uses its funds for services including pap smears, UTI and STI treatment, and contraception counseling. In a report done on PP clinics in Texas, it was found that when women lost access to PP, there was a 27 percent increase in births likely unplanned as the increase was only seen in counties where women had more difficulty getting access to contraceptions.
Beyond just the defunding of PP that provides low income passed plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This would remove contraception coverage, which will likely result into an increase in unplanned births. The ACA made a huge difference in the lives of women specifically, such as preventing women from being charged more on the basis of their gender, ensuring women can access birth control and mammograms without a copay, and preventing pregnancy from being treated as a preexisting condition to raise women’s premiums or deny them coverage. Women’s healthcare may not be completely at a loss as some individual states, including New York, are working to put in place legislation to protect free access to contraception. It is still not certain what women’s healthcare will look like during the Trump administration, but based on what his politicians have been saying, it looks like women will face many more challenges.
Takeaway: Without having access to healthcare, a good quality of life for thousands of women will become difficult to acquire, or worse. Opinions about abortions should not limit the healthcare coverage available to women.
Women in Film
We’re in the middle of awards season, and more attention than ever is being paid to representation and equality in the entertainment industry. The #OscarsSoWhite campaign drew attention to race diversity, while the gender bias led to an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) last year. Unfortunately, studies are showing that not only is the industry not improving, it may be getting worse.
A report titled “The Celluloid Ceiling” found that in 2016, women made up just 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers in the top 250 domestic-grossing films, a decline of 2% from 2015. When the nominations were announced for the 89th annual Academy Awards, not a single woman was nominated for Best Director, which is an award only four female directors have ever been nominated for and only one has won. All of this comes about in a time when it seems the careers of straight white actors are not only unaffected, but prioritized over their sexual assault accusations. The world isn’t all bad, though, as Viola Davis became the first black actress to earn three Oscar nominations for her performance in Fences.
Takeaway: While the world of entertainment takes an occasional few steps forward toward diversity, there is still a pronounced lack of equality in the industry. The importance of representation in film has been highlighted with recent box office successes, but we need changes behind the screen as well.
Speaking of representation, Hidden Figures made over $22.8 million during the first weekend in Januaryhttp://fusion.net/story/379520/hidden-figures-box-office/, even surpassing Rogue One despite playing on nearly 2,000 fewer screens. Across the country, women raised funds to send young girls and boys to see the movie and learn more about the history of women of color and be inspired to dream bigger themselves.
Despite an embarrassing mix-up that combined Hidden Figures and Fences, the two movies have already been nominated for and won critical industry awards. The success of Hidden Figures shows that not only can movies about women pass the Bechdel test, but also draw huge crowds and achieve massive box office successes while doing so.
Takeaway: With more big movies featuring female leads, the industry is finally realizing that movies about women or minorities actually have market viability and will draw in viewers in droves. Hopefully the successes of Hidden Figures will serve as a catalyst for other stories waiting to be told.
First Black Female Astronaut on ISS
With all the excitement surrounding Hidden Figures, it’s only fitting that NASA has announced the first black female astronaut to call the International Space Station home. Jeannette J. Epps is also the 13th woman on the ISS since the space station was founded in 1998. Epps is a member of NASA’s 2009 astronaut class and worked as a technical intelligence officer for the CIA for seven years. She will launch her first spaceflight in May of this year.
Takeaway: While it’s important for young girls to see themselves represented in media, it’s even more meaningful when those role models exist in real life and are involved in current events.
6-Year-Old Girls Already Have Gendered Beliefs About Intelligence
A recent study revealed that girls as young as six have already learned gendered beliefs about intelligence, which may hold them back from future successes. Perhaps most striking is the fact that among five-year-olds, both boys and girls associated brilliance with their own gender; but among those aged six or seven, only the boys still held to that view. As part of the study, six-year-old girls were also less likely to play a game when they were told it was for “really, really smart” children.
Takeaway: It’s saddening to realize that young girls learn so quickly how society views intelligence based on gender. We must continue to encourage young girls to embrace their intellectual passions.
AROUND THE WORLD
U.S. Ranks 23rd Out of 30 Developed Countries for Inequality
The annual summit for the World Economic Forum took place in Davos recently, and a report was released that shows, the U.S. ranks 23 out of 30 developed nations in a measure known as the “inclusive development index,” which includes data on income, health, poverty, and sustainability. The report argues that the U.S.’s inequality likely influences a variety of other disparities, including political and social polarization. However, it also suggests that the current problem can be improved through policies that promote parity in wages regardless of gender, race or ethnicity; educational opportunities; and access to jobs.
Takeaway: In today’s political climate in the United States, this may come as no surprise to some. This report shows how closely the world is watching us at such a critical time as well as how far we have to go to achieve equality.
Russian Parliament to Decriminalize Domestic Violence
Russia has voted, making battery, the unlawful physical acting upon a threat, against family members as long as it does not cause bodily harm, like a broken limb, legal. Russia is one of three countries in Europe and Central Asia that do not have laws against domestic violence. This is dangerous because it promotes the thought that violence towards anyone is not wrong and not punishable. “According to Russian government statistics, 40% of all violent crimes are committed within the family. The figures correlate to 36,000 women being beaten by their partners every day and 26,000 children being assaulted by their parents every year.” Two women were among the group that created the bill, stating that they believed it would protect Russian families and make them stronger. Domestic violence has deep cultural roots in Russia, as shown through an old proverb, “If he beats you it means he loves you.”
Takeaway: While countries do have different cultures and customs, to make domestic violence in any form acceptable is a huge problem. Statistically this affects women and children of families more than men. Laws should be made to empower and protect people. Just because something is a law, it does not make it right and we must keep working to achieve equality and safety for everyone.
No Means No Worldwide
In a campaign to end violence against women and children, the global No Means No Worldwide organization has released a video showcasing how their training teaches girls to fight back and boys to understand consent. The organization trains and certifies instructors for violence prevention, intervention and recovery programs at schools and clubs to conduct classes for children ages 10-20. Their program already dramatically reduces sexual assault and pregnancy related dropouts wherever their instructors teach.
Takeaway: The issue of self-defense against sexual assault is relevant worldwide, but thankfully organizations like this continue to help spread the knowledge and empower younger generations to protect themselves and know what’s right.
IN OTHER NEWS
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